Review: This Movie is Broken ★★★½

This Movie is Broken (Canada, 85 min)
Dir: Bruce McDonald; Writ: Don McKellar
Starring: Broken Social Scene, Greg Calderone, Georgina Reilly, Kerr Hewitt, Tracy Wright.
In Summer 2009, some pretty amazing things happened in Toronto. When the LCBO threatened to strike, hoards of people queued up to ensure they were well stocked with booze for the summer and then breathed a sigh of relief when the board soon announced that Ontario would not have to go dry. However, when the City’s public servants walked out, citizens let the garbage pile up. The strike also thwarted concertgoers from taking the ferry over to the island to catch the Broken Social Scene concert. Fortunately, the band members are loyal Torontonians and staged a free concert at the Toronto harbor.

Summer 2009 is also when Bruno finally slept with Caroline Rush. Caroline (Georgina Reilly) is what the guys of Hot Tub Time Machine would call “The Great White Buffalo”. She’s that perfect but unattainable girl whose beauty has been out of reach for Bruno (Greg Calderone) since he first developed a crush on her at the age of ten. There’s a catch though: although Bruno is so close to attaining the girl of his dreams, Caroline is moving to Paris the next day. That gives Bruno twenty-four hours to win her heart. How? With a concert.

Director Bruce McDonald captures the magic of the music of Broken Social Scene by weaving the young couple’s story with footage from the band’s harbor-front concert. Through a series of well-played montages, McDonald conveys the thrill of a live performance, both onstage and off. The twenty-odd member of Broken Social Scene are clearly having as much fun at the concert as their fans, and their energetic set is worth the admission itself. Going into the movie, I wasn’t a diehard fan of the “rock collective”, but I loved every minute their eclectic beats.

With Bruno and Caroline’s story, McDonald really invests the fans enjoyment of the music into the concert as well. The endless sea of smiling faces and bobbing heads adds a collective appreciation to the performance – an element that was noticeably absent from Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert film Shine a Light. Unfortunately, the dramatic angle to This Movie is Broken isn’t as strong as the concert itself. At times, Bruno’s elevation of Caroline can be more frustrating than appealing, especially with the reliance on a voice-over narrative that probably reads better on paper than it does onscreen. Still, McDonald and writer Don McKellar use Bruno’s story in some unconventional ways to draw out some of the band’s qualities, so the parallels on both sides of the docudrama are much appreciated. Amidst the flood of Toronto’s garbage, This Movie is Broken is a quirky and necessary slice of Canadiana.

(And props to my Queen’s Film alums Rachael Glassman, Celine Bell, Andrew Edmonds, and Mark DeLottinville for their involvement in this project!)